You could obviously appreciate both, but you probably had a definite preference for one over the other. Thornbridge and Brew Dog are symbiotically linked in my mind because when I first met Thornbridge, Martin Dickie was joint brewer there with Stefano Cossi. Since they went their separate ways they’ve remained on good terms (when I brewed at Thornbridge, the screensaver on the brewery laptop was a big photo of Martin). They’ve developed very similar beers – Martin first explored the wood aging that would lead him to Paradox and beyond with Thornbridge’s wonderful St Petersburg. And Jaipur and Punk IPA are clearly related. A couple of weeks ago, each brewery sent me some beer to try. Brew Dog sent a bottle of Sink the Bismarck! And Thornbridge delivered a few bottles of Jaipur that’s been centrifuged rather than pasteurized and/or cold filtered. This weekend, I tried them both. Both IPAs, both from new wave rock and roll brewers. Jaipur the latest Beatles remix, Sink! the challenging new release from Their Satantic Majesties. I’m actually going to have to discuss the beers in a separate blog post now because there is so much to say about Sink! in particular, so I’ll let this observation – originally intended as an intro to a blog about beer tastings – stand on its own. Please let’s not get into which one of the Bakewell lot is Ringo, and whether James Watt is more Mick Jagger or Andrew Loog Oldham – I don’t want to get down to the personal level (though I’ll give you Martin Dickie as Keith Richards – there’s even a passing physical resemblance to the young Keef). But if the analogy is true, can we extend it? Who is the brewing world’s Simply Red, its Joy Division or Black Lace?
Maybe it’s because they share the same combination of artistry and sociability, maybe it’s because both have the power to intoxicate, or maybe it’s just that one was my passion and obsession before the other came along. But I can’t help seeing constant parallels between the world of brewing and the world of pop and rock music. When I first realized that I wanted to be a writer, I wanted to write about music, and maybe I’m just venting some of that frustrated desire.
I’m not going to describe brewing as the new rock and roll because that would be unforgivable, but the excitement of discovering a new beer, the sense of an underground, an alternative to the mainstream, the hype and buzz that occasionally surround an ‘important’ new release… they’re very similar. If you took away the music analogy and my other favourite – seeing the brewing industry in terms of Monty Python films – I’d struggle to describe how I feel about beer and brewing.With that in mind, I was struck recently by the strongest parallel to date. And it’s this: Thornbridge and Brew Dog are the Beatles and the Stones.In the early sixties, the Beatles and the Stones tore up the blueprint of popular music and redefined it forever. They took established forms – rock and roll, rhythm and blues – and while they showed immense respect for these traditions, they twisted them into brand new shapes.The influence of both is inarguable and still felt today.But the two bands were quite different in the way they came across, and people talked about which they preferred.
Thornbridge Hall just to of shot to the left.
While both were experimental and incredibly popular, the Beatles were seen as clean-cut, nice, cheeky boys who you could take home to meet your mum if you snagged one of them. They rocked the establishment, but there was something wholesome about them. They proved accessible and likeable as well as pioneering and brave.
You can’t go out in Fraserburgh dressed like that, you dangerous young punks!
The Stones on the other hand were more dangerous, more edgy, with more attitude. “Would you let your daughter marry a Rolling Stone?” ran the infamous headline. While both bands indulged in mind-altering substances, it was the Stones who were seen as the druggy, edgy band, the real rock and rollers, the Rolls Royce in the swimming pool and the TV out the hotel window.